Thursday, August 27, 2015

I Can't Hear You

Hello - is this thing on?

Ludwig van Beethoven, many say, was not white. Beethoven had Moorish ancestry dating to the Spanish occupation of the portion of the Netherlands, now part of Belgium, from which his paternal grandfather hailed.

If I understand correctly, this ultimately means Beethoven's grandfather was ethnically Flemish, with some other stuff, maybe or maybe not - but really, why not - mixed in. The main thing I know about Flems and Dutch personages is that they dislike each other so much, SO much, I've read, that even though Flemish and Dutch are technically two dialects of the same language - speakers of each can understand the other - they are classified as separate languages.

A 15-second scan of the Internets does not turn anything up to refute this, so I'm going with it.

Anyway, imagine if we hated the Australians so much that we pretended we couldn't understand a damn thing they said. This is probably a bad analogy, because who could hate Aussies? But if an Aussie weren't keen on Americans, and turned up her nose and pretended not to be able to understand a Texas drawl or a Hollywood vocal fry, that would be roughly equivalent. I think. I'm not sure, I changed my major from Linguistics to Rhetoric and Writing a while ago.

We digress anyway. The point is, Beethoven may or may not have had Black ancestry, evidence in support of which is that he was fairly swarthy for a German, and wrote music with unusual rhythmic sensitivity for his date and time.

I'm good with the first point. The second makes me uneasy. Even the staunchest African-Beethoven theorist is not suggesting that Beethoven spent any of his lifetime whatsoever in Africa. Therefore, any notion of his Black ancestry having an effect on his unique musical expression suggests at best a troubling genetic component to his musical proclivities. Beethoven was raised in Europe - never set foot outside of it, as far as I've read; never knew any but a vanishingly small handful of people who had. To suggest that a style of musical composition is racially based is also to bring up all sorts of other suggestions, hopefully long debunked, of which races are better at certain things than others.

Why the sudden interest? My sister Margie drew this wonderful bust of Beethoven, which an amazing tattoo artist in Queens - Astoria (Body Language Tattoos on Broadway, if anyone's interested) brought to life on my shoulder. I've been hankering after this for a few years. It's amazing, and doesn't really hurt much at all, if you're used to hungry cats at 5 AM.
So now it's personal, you know.

On a generally unrelated note, this morning I got up and went to the kitchen and found Bingo bathing himself on the stove, as is his wont. "Bingo!" I shouted. He ignored me.

Bingo kept on licking himself, his back to me, and I kept on shouting at him, unregarded. "Bingo!" I said. "BINGO!!" I was right behind him. He showed no notice. Finally I touched him and he started almost out of his skin, looked at me reproachfully, meyowled a few times, and jumped off the stove. He had no idea I was there.

Bingo is stone deaf.

He's 16 years old, so I guess this should come as no particular shock, and might have been going on for quite a while, but I had no idea. Poor little guy. He already gets special dispensation for his advanced age, so I gave him more cream when I made coffee, and an extra cup of stinky food, and plenty of extra chest scritchies as he purred on my lap, warty old neck extended. I love that little guy.

There's a lot more I wanted to say about issues of race, social acceptance, and disability - not to mention body art - but this will have to do for tonight. The fall semester has begun, and as usual, when I have writing to do for school or work, interest in doing it for fun dwindles. Which is a shame, because the whole point of a blog (isn't it?) is that there's no actual expectation that it be any good.

So here's a terrible joke from our old friend, the Internet:

When Beethoven passed away, he was buried in a churchyard. A couple of days later, the town drunk was walking through the cemetery and heard some strange noise coming from the area where Beethoven was buried. Terrified, the drunk ran and got the priest to come and listen to it. The priest bent close to the grave and heard some faint, unrecognizable music coming from the grave. Frightened, the priest ran and got the town magistrate.

When the magistrate arrived, he bent his ear to the grave, listened for a moment, and said, "Ah, yes, that's Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, being played backwards."

He listened a while longer, and said, "There's the Eighth Symphony, and it's backwards, too. Most puzzling." So the magistrate kept listening; "There's the Seventh... the Sixth... the Fifth..."

Suddenly the realization of what was happening dawned on the magistrate; he stood up and announced to the crowd that had gathered in the cemetery, "My fellow citizens, there's nothing to worry about. It's just Beethoven decomposing."

*mic drop*

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